Ask A Farmer – About Beef Cattle

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Q: What breed or brand of beef do you prefer for your own personal use?
A: It’s not so much the color of the animal or the pedigree, but what you feed an animal that makes for good tasting beef.

Roy Plote is a sixth generation farmer from Leland. He farms with his brother and brother-in-law raising beef cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. Roy and
his wife, Janet, have two sons, Ethan and Avery.

Most farmers who raise beef cattle will choose an animal to take to a local locker to butcher for their personal consumption. With families being smaller now, sometimes they prefer just a half-beef to last a full year. So, they will find a neighbor or relative to take the other half.

A steer that is shown in 4-H, FFA or fairs with livestock competitions can often be the only animal raised by some families. This makes their choice pretty simple. On larger farms with many animals, especially cows and calves as well as yearlings and market ready cattle, there are more choices to consider. Which one to take, and when?

Accidents happen and chances are one animal will break a leg from falling on the ice or have a banged up hip from running into a gate too hard, or a cow that was giving birth couldn’t get up afterwards. These animals were all healthy and are perfectly fine to use for meat so the farmer will do his best to capture the value from these animals.

Of course, if there is a family or business event in the future that requires larger amounts of beef, cattlemen will often choose a prime specimen to exhibit their quality product to their guests.

When I buy feeder cattle, oftentimes I have many colors and breeds to choose from. The recent promotion of Black Angus Beef has made many consumers think that color matters when it’s really just good marketing of good quality beef.

A couple weeks ago, I took a Charolois and Angus crossbred steer with 10 other red, black and tan cattle to a cattle auction. Normally the black animals will bring the most because of the premium marketing system. But that day, my “black-nosed” Charolois topped the whole sale. The buyer of that animal could tell that it was going to be high choice or prime quality with a high yield yet it only weighed 1,520 pounds.

As cattle producers, we know that the breed of the animal is only one factor in how the beef from an animal will grade and eventually taste. Once the hide is off, the carcasses look pretty much the same for animals fed a similar diet of corn, corn silage, dried distillers grains, and supplement.

In my feedlot, I raise crossbred steers that include genetics from Angus, Charolois, Hereford, Simmental, Limousin and Holstein beef cattle. And I’m a firm believer in the phrase, “what matters more than color and pedigree is how and what the beef are fed.”

Got a question for a farmer?
Submit your farm and food questions to connections@dekalbfarmbureau.org. We will share questions with our local farmers and publish their answers as space allows in upcoming issues of Connections.

From the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Connections publication